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Appreciation is among the most positive of attitudes; it effects our mindset and contributes to our overall health.  It’s a time-out to recognize what we value and are grateful for. The Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was a prime example of the transformative power of appreciation. With its practice, even just for moments at a time, he was able to elevate his spirits and get through his imprisonment in a Nazi death camp. He survived to demonstrate this power of appreciation in his writings and subsequent career.

Most of us don’t have anywhere near that horror to rise above but have everyday challenges and stress that can simply wear us down. The perception of what we care about or honor can inspire us and lift our mood so that the day gets just a bit better from then on. By recognizing what is important to us we find meaning and richness in ordinary life: our families, work we love, challenges we’ve been able to overcome or even the bee outside our window pollinating a flower.

Appreciation can actually be practiced with the intention of strengthening the heart. During this practice, threatening messages coming from the parts of our brain geared to ‘fight or flight’ can be short-circuited because appreciation and the state of fear cannot coexist within our neural network. The heart has the ability to send messages to the brain via the spinal cord through the vagus nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body. Because of this feedback loop, the heart overrides fear messages from the brain of the type that put stress on our hearts. When we hold a space for appreciation, the heart works harmoniously with the neural and endocrine systems to bring about an experience that affects us in a deeply positive way.

What are three things you can stop to appreciate right at this moment?